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To Create 10 Ways
to Find Trends
Images are a means of communication. And just as spoken
and written language adapts over time, visual language does
too. Successful stock contributors keep their portfolios
current and optimized to serve the needs of image buyers.
So where do you go to ﬁnd trends and inspiration? Start
with a paper notebook, a tablet computer, a smartphone,
or any desktop, and keep an “idea journal” or “mood
board” of what you ﬁnd. Here are some places to get
ideas for the imagery you create. Social Media and Online Tools.
What topics are trending? Who are the most inﬂuential people in
news and culture? What causes do they believe in? What issues
are controversial? How could they be illustrated conceptually
Scan the latest headlines. Are there any common themes? What
are the political issues that will carry into the next election? Are
there any emerging or inspirational aesthetic or visual trends?
Home Furnishings and Fashion.
What colors are most popular? What looks were popular in this
year’s fashion shows? What styles are popular in home and
What are the coolest new gadget trends on the technology
blogs? What types of products and technology make headlines
at the electronics trade shows? How do popular products today,
like cell phones or computers and tablets, differ from ones seen
in previous years?
What is changing about ethnic and cultural diversity? How is your
10 Ways to Find Trends and Inspiration The Calendar.
What are the anticipated news, social, and cultural events that
will be coming up in the next year or two?
Your Street, Your World.
What’s different about your neighborhood? The local food?
Local fashion? Architecture? Religion? Cultural events?
There’s increasing demand for “local” and “authentic” images.
Holidays and Celebrations.
What are the popular holidays and celebrations around the
world or in your town?
You should never copy the work of other artists. But you should
keep an eye on what’s interesting and new in the world of art,
including photography. What problems, issues, or concepts are
contemporary artists trying to explore? What new techniques
are available? Take a look at gallery shows, as well as art blogs,
books, and magazines.
Sometimes the old ways are the best. Museums and art
shows that include traditional paintings are great sources
of timeless inspiration.
10 Ways to Find Trends and Inspiration What Buyers
Are Begging For
To maximize your success, you need to understand
what buyers are looking for. We frequently talk to
customers who ask for images with these qualities.
Images that show “authenticity.”
Perfectly posed images of beautiful models are popular, but buyers
tell us every day that they also want authenticity. Images need to
be inspirational, professional, and of high quality, but people and
activities should look natural, relaxed, and “real.”
Images that show cultural diversity.
We live in an increasingly global economy and shared culture.
For years, buyers have been asking stock agencies for images
that reﬂect how culturally diverse our world is in a way that
feels honest and accurate.
Images that show local culture.
Shutterstock serves a global audience. Does a business meeting in
Hong Kong or Rio De Janeiro look exactly the same as one in London
or Rome? Don’t copy “popular” images. Buyers want high-quality
and authentic images of the world as seen through your eyes.Distinct variations from the same shoot.
Buyers often tell us things like this: “The shot was perfect – but we
couldn’t use it because the person was serious, not smiling.” Or the
image was horizontal, not vertical. By shooting distinct and unique
variations of the same scene, you can give a buyer options while
maximizing sales opportunities from a single shoot.
Thoughtful room for text.
Your images need to have a clear center of interest, but have you
thought about how text might be overlaid on the image? Think about
a magazine cover, advertisement, or two-page spread. Where do
photographers leave room for text? What techniques do they use –
like shallow depth-of-ﬁeld – to create a suitable space for text?
Images that they can’t ﬁnd anywhere else.
We were recently approached by a potential customer
who works for a government agency specializing in
wastewater treatment. She was a regular buyer
of images of sewer sludge. Who would imagine
that? Popular themes such as nature, objects,
business, and healthcare may seem obvious
to beginners, but since those categories are
saturated, ﬁnding images of unique subjects
should also be a major part of your portfolio
strategy. These images might not be the top sellers,
but your unique, niche images are up against less
competition, and will help you diversify your portfolio.
What Buyers Are Begging For How to Maximize Your
Proﬁts When Shooting
Even top professionals consider how to save money on production costs to
maximize revenue. Here are the top tips to keep your production expenses low.
Rent—don’t buy—certain equipment.
It’s likely that your camera, basic lenses, and ﬂash are things you want to own. But
studio lighting and other equipment can often be rented in a cost-effective way. Top
professionals often rent equipment when the beneﬁts of renting outweigh the cost of
buying, storing, maintaining, and insuring equipment that could be technically obsolete
in just a few years.
Share equipment and studio costs.
If you know other photographers who submit for stock as well, talk to them about sharing
production costs. For example, studio lights can be rented by the week and then shared
among a few individuals. Always remember that whoever signs the rental agreement is
responsible for the equipment in case something is lost, broken, or stolen, so choose
partners who are trustworthy and responsible. Shoot multiple scenes with your models.
There are photographers who develop entire
portfolios around a few models. While it’s best
to use a diverse selection of models, you should
maximize your time when you have models in the
studio. Different sets, angles, facial expressions,
orientations, clothing, and scenarios are all ways to
maximize the return on a single shoot.
Shoot video and stills at the same time.
More and more cameras have HD video capability.
HD video is an increasingly popular stock medium
and videos are often licensed at higher prices than
stills. There are differences between shooting stills
and video, but you can greatly increase your earning
potential by creating both during the same shoot.
Try before you buy.
Photography software can be very expensive.
Thankfully, many companies like Adobe offer 30-
day free trials of their software. If you’re not sure if
you’re going to need certain functionality, try out a
few software packages before settling on your ﬁnal
workﬂow and committing to making purchases.
How to Maximize Your Proﬁts When Shooting When you do buy, try to DIY (“Do It Yourself”).
Brand-name video and photography accessories can be
expensive. Thankfully, a large number of “DIY” sites have
been created. Sites like CheesyCam.com have tutorials to
create or buy inexpensive versions of popular items like
video stabilizers, dollies, LED lights, and camera sliders.
Get releases and avoid logos and trademarks.
If your images show people or property, they can’t be licensed
for commercial use without a model or property release. They
also can’t be used commercially if they contain obvious logos or
trademarks. Getting a signed release will ensure that you
get the highest return on your work.
Get creative with your space.
You don’t need a 2,000-square-foot studio to shoot sellable
photos. A clean white bathtub can be used creatively to get
object shots on a white background. Many amazing shots
are taken in garages against a small seamless white or black
backdrop. Be sure to pay careful attention to lighting, but
remember that no one can see what’s outside of the frame.
How to Maximize Your Proﬁts When Shooting Take good care of your equipment and sell it
when it makes sense.
There are many reasons to take good care of your equipment.
One reason is that camera equipment such as lenses and
ﬂashes often holds its value very well. If you protect your glass,
you might ﬁnd that you can sell it on eBay for almost
as much as you paid for it. Camera bodies might not retain
their value as well, because new technology comes out
with great improvements.
The most important budget-saving technique:
run your business like a business.
Be conscious of exactly what you’re spending on equipment,
models, and each shoot. Keeping track of your expenses with a
spreadsheet is a smart way to increase proﬁts. It’s like dieting:
unless you count calories and weigh yourself, you begin to
quickly lose track of how you’re doing against your objectives.
Set realistic goals and plot a long-term strategy for success.
Top photographers also know that their value is often in
creating images, not keywording and uploading. Images and
video can be sent to third-party production houses to be
keyworded, retouched, and optimized for sales. Or a paid
assistant can do the same. This approach typically applies to
photographers who create thousands of images.
How to Maximize Your Proﬁts When Shooting Video: Get Much Higher
Royalties with a Little
More Shooting Time
We see increasing demand for video. The rise of Internet video,
mobile video, video advertising, paid TV – and the availability of
inexpensive and easy tools to both create and edit video – have
increased the sales potential of stock footage.
True, it requires an investment of time, talent, and equipment to
shoot, edit, color-correct, transfer, and upload clips. However, there
are rewards. Video has traditionally sold at a higher price point.
Royalties at Shutterstock are as high as 23 per download, and your
clips are up against less competition compared to still imagery.
So what can you do to take advantage of this opportunity? Many
cameras these days are sold with HD video capability. A growing
number of photographers are shooting both stills and video as
part of their portfolio strategy, even during a single shoot. Here’s what you ideally need to get started in professional video:
An HD DSLR, or a camera capable of creating HD video.
You might already have this. The Canon 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, Canon 7D, and Nikon D800 are popular Digital
SLR cameras for creating HD video. Smaller “Micro Four-Thirds” cameras, and even compact cameras such as
the wearable GoPro Hero, are also capable of shooting HD video. DSLRs will give you more control and more
lens options, and they are typically more suitable for use with tripods and other accessories.
A stable tripod with a ﬂuid head.
A photograph can be a snapshot of a fraction of a second. A video clip can last a minute or more. Professional
videos are consistently stable and steady, even when panning. For hand-held shots, there are various stabilizers
and brackets, as well as “build it yourself” options, to reduce the blur and vibration caused by camera shake.
An extra viewﬁnder or an external monitor.
Video is typically viewed through the small LCD of a DSLR camera. Unfortunately, that makes it
hard to get precise focus as objects are in motion. There are many aftermarket accessories
available for enlarging the view of the LCD screen. One such accessory mounts on the
back of the camera and works like a large loupe or magnifying glass. Alternately,
a small external monitor can also be used with a bracket. Both will give you
more precise focus ability.
Still cameras rely on a single “ﬂash” of light. Video requires
continuous lighting that stays on and stays cool. Lights can
be rented or purchased, but you’ll want color-balanced
lights that ﬁt the above criteria. Popular models
include camera-mounted LED lights and studio
lights made by ARRI and KinoFlo. These kinds of
lights can also be rented.Audio recording devices: microphones and digital recorders.
Shutterstock accepts audio with video clips, but only ambient audio and background noise. Music or
audio provided by third parties (licensed or otherwise) is not allowed. That being said – even for
ambient sounds – “on-camera” audio is typically poor quality. If you want the best possible audio,
get a Zoom H4n or similar dedicated recorder – along with a quality, shotgun-style or omnidirectional
microphone and a wind shield.
High-speed or high-capacity storage cards.
Video ﬁles are very large compared to photos, often running a gigabyte or more per clip. When it comes
to speed, most storage cards sold today are sold with video in mind. But it’s worth checking the speed
and size of your cards to make sure you have enough storage and that they’re fast enough to properly
capture and transfer video.
It won’t take much time to ﬁll up your desktop or laptop hard drive with your clips. Having additional
hard drives will allow you to ofﬂoad your videos efﬁciently and will also allow you to move ﬁles between
multiple computers. Always back up your data, too.
Video editing software.
There’s a variety of video editing software out there. Some of the more popular packages are Final Cut
Pro by Apple, Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas Pro, Pinnacle Studio, and Avid Studio. In addition, packages
like After Effects and Photoshop 6 Extended will allow you to apply ﬁlters or color-correct your clips.
Research what you need before making a purchase.
Video: Get Much Higher Royalties with a Little More Shooting Time The Ingredients of Top-Selling
Stock Images or Videos
They have “commercial value.”
“Commercial value” represents the likelihood that your image or video will be useful to a creative buyer. Since many
images are licensed for commercial, corporate, marketing, or advertising uses, the more attractive and usable an
image is for a broad number of uses – including both editorial and commercial uses – the more it is considered to
have “commercial value.”
They have both literal and conceptual meaning.
An image of a surfer riding a huge wave represents literal subject matter such as a “surfer,” “wave,” and “surfboard.”
But some images of surﬁng illustrate abstract concepts such as “risk,” “adventure,” “excitement,” “danger,” and
more. Images that have both literal and conceptual meaning are more likely to be popular as stock images.
They have room for text.
Go to the newsstand and pick up some magazines. Look at the magazine cover and ﬂip through the spreads.
Look at advertisements. How are designers overlaying text on the images? Are the images ﬁlled with
visual clutter and distractions or are they visually simple and clean?
Images that inspire an emotional reaction are more valuable than those that do not. An image of a
mountain climber celebrating on a peak can challenge our notions of what’s humanly achievable
and can highlight new levels of aesthetic beauty.
They balance “aspiration” with honesty and authenticity.
“Aspiration” is deﬁned as a person’s desire to be something better. However – in the case of
people – we can’t all expect to be bodybuilders, mountain climbers, or supermodels. Buyers often
want images that balance positive values that we all aspire to with honest depictions that an
audience will feel are both realistic and achievable. Submitting to
Shutterstock Your First
If you have existing images, or if you’re ready to start creating
stock, then joining Shutterstock is as straightforward as
1-2-3. We maintain quality standards, but we also have a very
fast and efﬁcient upload, submission, and approval process.
Many of our contributors start earning money within 24 hours
of submitting content. Here’s how to get started with your ﬁrst batch of images (or video):
Read Shutterstock’s submission guidelines.
Our guidelines explain your legal rights and responsibilities, technical
criteria, and what content is appropriate for the collection.
Consider whether your images have “commercial value”
and/or “editorial value.”
“Commercial value” and “editorial value” are deﬁned as the likelihood that
an image buyer will ﬁnd your content useful to license. Is it realistic that your
image would be used in an advertising campaign? If the image is editorial in
nature, could you see it being published for news or educational purposes?
Images are licensed for many different purposes, but you should think about
how desirable your images might be for different types of editorial
or commercial uses.
Edit your images down to a quality set.
Even the best photographer can be a bad editor, because he or she has an
emotional investment in the photographs. If you’re not sure what your 10
“best” images are, consider consulting other sellers in the Shutterstock or
MicrostockGroup forums for their feedback.
Your First Submission and Application Success Check your photos at 100% – 200%.
View your images at 100% to 200% magniﬁcation in order to locate noise,
artifacts, and other defects that might jeopardize their approval.
Include quality metadata and keywords.
For the most part, buyers don’t ﬁnd your images by visuals alone. Search engines
match a buyer’s search terms to the keywords you’ve entered. Better keywords =
better sales. Accurate keywords = better sales. If you enter 25-45 accurate,
relevant, and properly spelled keywords for each photo, your chances of success
are very high.
Upload and submit.
Once you’re satisﬁed that your images meet the above criteria, it’s time to submit
Upload your images at http://submit.shutterstock.com and keep an eye on your
email inbox for your ofﬁcial acceptance
Don’t get discouraged.
Many successful Shutterstock contributors were rejected on their ﬁrst
submission. If we reject your ﬁrst submission, keep improving and try again
Your First Submission and Application Success Keywording
Make keywording a routine part of your workﬂow. Your
images will sell better if you put a little extra effort into
writing accurate keywords, and lots of them.
Here are a few tips to help you master the art and
science of keywording.
Think like an image buyer.
Picture the person most likely to download your image. Now, put
yourself in that person’s shoes and think about which words they’d
type to ﬁnd an image like yours. Get speciﬁc.
Use 25 to 45 accurate keywords, and customize them
for every image as much as possible.
As a general rule, try to input 25 to 45 keywords per image. It might
be tempting to upload a batch of images from a single shoot and
label them all with a list of identical keywords. However, if you put in
a little more time to write precise keywords for each image, you’ll
see better sales.
Make your titles and descriptions unique.
Titles should be succinct, punchy, and descriptive of exactly
what’s seen in the image. Make the title as accurate and unique as
possible. For example, if you have two images of dogs, don’t give
them both a title of “Dog.” “White Dog Playing With Ball” and “Black
Dog Eating” will help differentiate the photos. The time you save
when batch editing might result in fewer sales.